Coach Tino and Coach Nuno enjoying their rest day.

How often should someone take a rest day?
Written by Nuno Costa

If you have been doing CrossFit for a while now, you recognize that our program excels due to the high intensity component. With that being said, one thing we have to keep in mind is that we can’t sustain that high intensity every single day; otherwise our body ends up breaking down. So this begs the question of how often should someone take a rest day? follows a 3 on 1 off program, which means 3 days of doing the workouts and taking the following day to rest. Most athletes will need that day of rest in order to allow the muscle tissue to regrow and the body to recover from the training.

If someone is brand new to CrossFit, I don’t suggest they start with a 3 on 1 off program since most people will not be able to handle that much intensity/work initially. Suggested ramp up time can be Monday, Wednesday and Fridays or Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, so 3 days a week till the body gets used to this. After that, then you can ramp up to 2 on 1 off such as Monday and Tuesday on, rest on Wednesday and Thursday and Friday on and on the weekends getting outside to play and doing something fun with all this fitness you are gaining.

At Invictus, we offer programming 6 days a week, Monday-Saturday. We realize not everyone’s schedule is the same and some will come in on certain days, and some on others. I have also heard some folks like to come in Monday-Friday and take the weekend off (5 on and 2 off). This may work for some, but what needs to be monitored is how that athlete is responding to the training. On the 4th and 5th day in a row, are they still feeling strong and are they still able to hit the conditioning portions of the workouts hard and keep the intensity that we are looking for in order to gain results?

What tends to happen is you start enjoying coming to the gym so much because you are seeing results and you are making friends and getting connected to the community and you don’t want to take days off – but this can also lead to some nagging injuries if the individual is not listening to their body. I have seen it happen time and time again and I, myself, have made this mistake more than once. So what does someone do on his or her rest day? Here is what we suggest to our athletes that follow the competition blog:

Aerobic Restoration
, Mobility and Maintenance
, Inflammation Maintenance, Nutrition Preparation, Mental Restoration
. For more details on each of these check out our competition blog.

Personally I like to take complete rest days, or I may do some light stretching or a restorative yoga class. The key here is that we want to balance the yin with the yang; we don’t want to do something that’s going to be high intensity. If we are going to do something on a rest day, it needs to be restorative. My favorite thing to do on a rest day is get a massage or some sort of body work, ART, or acupuncture. If you are coming in on a regular basis of 3-4 days a week, I highly suggest scheduling some sort of restorative body work at least once a month – you are worth it and your body will thank you.

Regardless if you are a competitive CrossFit athlete or just someone looking to get fitter – remember more is not always better, but better is better. Learn to listen to your body, learn to be ok with missing a day here or there in order to take care of yourself. You are only going to get stronger and faster if you allow your muscles a chance to recover.

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Bill Marsh
Bill Marsh
August 1, 2017 10:29 am

What role does age play in workout frequency and recovery? I’m 56 years old and have been doing Crossfit for 3 years. I workout 5-6 days per week pretty hard but I’m concerned that, at my age, I may need more rest days. Are the recommendations you list in this article different for older athletes?

Zachary DeCarlo
Zachary DeCarlo
July 19, 2017 6:47 am

How many rest days would you say to take after a competition if you’re originally used to training twice a day?

Hinckley Hardcastle
Hinckley Hardcastle
July 1, 2016 6:36 am

Great article, thanks. I’ve been doing this about six months and only take of Sunday and/or if I’m out of town, which has been rare this year. I think today was my first real skip day. I was just so burnt. So I googled this and see maybe I’ve been overdoing it. Thanks,

John Bartlett
John Bartlett
June 16, 2016 1:21 pm

“better is better”

nice article!

October 28, 2014 1:10 pm

Hi Nuno and the team and Invictus, Really enjoyed your article, especially the part where you stress the importance of taking a rest day and listening to your body. The importance of allowing your body time for rest and recovery is really underrated in workout schedules. It’s a common misconception that ‘you can never have too much exercise’ and as a result, many dedicated fitness enthusiasts often burn out or are left injured from not giving their bodies the adequate time to recover. Check out our campaign dedicated to promoting the benefits of rest and recovery amongst avid exercisers at… Read more »

May 26, 2014 11:21 am

HI, I’d had two weeks of rest ’cause a lot of travelling. How should I start over again? Making some WOD’s at low intensitty??

Richard Madrid
Richard Madrid(@rjmadrid05)
February 12, 2014 11:10 am

I’ve been taking more rest days here and there the last two comp cycles and it’s definitely helped my recovery. I would also say that even if you do get to the gym and feel sluggish, scale the rep scheme or the weight used for the WOD. I have to do that at least 2-3x per week (mostly because the load for certain WODs is too heavy and beyond my ability) and it makes a huge difference in performance, intensity, and recovery.

Kyle Blackman
Kyle Blackman(@kyleblackman)
February 11, 2014 9:49 pm

Amen. If im extra sore or some part of my body is feeling over worked or worn out, ill take the rest of the week off until i start feeling normal again. The end result is generally me coming back feeling stronger than before. I took a week and a half off recently and came back only to set 3 PR’s including a PRing my snatch by 15lbs. Rest days FTW.

Cj Martin
Cj Martin(@cj)
February 12, 2014 9:06 pm
Reply to  Kyle Blackman

Beautiful! Love this Kyle!

June 26, 2014 2:01 pm
Reply to  Kyle Blackman

Try a banana up your ass 2 times a week :).